On Tuesday night, the Sammamish City Council drew a line in the sand on over-development, forcing a potential pause on development until a much needed public infrastructure is built.
A split council voted on an esoteric traffic engineering parameter that decides what is the accepted level of traffic congestion the city is willing to tolerate.
In doing so, the council have possibly made Sammamish the first jurisdiction in the Puget Sound to be implementing the Growth Management Act (GMA) the way it was originally intended to – to protect the citizens’ quality of life.
Sammamish residents took to email, social media and showed up in person at the Oct. 16 council meeting to tell council to keep the moratorium on the Town Center and not to exempt anyone from the new development regulations.
On a split 4/3 vote, the council voted to keep the moratorium. The vote on the development regulations has been postponed.
A day after staff revealed the last data on the new concurrency rules, a split Sammamish city council took action to save development of hundreds, potentially thousands, of new homes, from what looks like an inevitable shut down of growth in Sammamish due to lack of road capacity.
Recent emails discovered on Fehr & Peers servers, obtained through a public records request, reveal separate, secret meetings between Kendra Breiland from Fehr & Peers, former City Manager Lyman Howard and Town Center developer STCA.
“This is confidential correspondence from the City Manager’s office,” wrote former Deputy City Manager Jessi Bon to Breiland in an email dated July 22, 2017. “We would like to meet with you on Thursday at on off-site location. At this time it will just be myself and the City Manager. The other staff are not aware of this meeting, so again, please keep this confidential.”
Meetings between developers and government officials are common. What is uncommon–and suspicious–are meetings that are labeled confidential and specifically excluding staff under a request for confidentiality.
A contractor’s emails are subject to the State Public Records Act under certain circumstances, which applied in this case. The complete email exchange is here.
The Sammamish City Council continues to wrestle with the controversial and highly complex topic of traffic concurrency.
The council has been backed into a corner by staff, consultants and, as the responsible executive, the city manager. There are no good choices left to the council to deal with the city’s growing traffic problems and balancing these against development.
The process to date has been so thoroughly mucked up that, in reality, there are few choices the council has ifit is going to lift the building moratorium in July, its self-imposed target.
Deputy Mayor Karen Moran and Council Member Chris Ross are the key votes that will determine the direction.
The first choice is to adopt the new model that has been proposed by the city staff and consultants.
The second is to go back to the old model, adjusting it to eliminate “credits” for theoretical added capacity that, for the most part, are pencil-pushing solutions.
I favor the second choice. Here’s why. But it may be too late to go there.
The Sammamish City Council faces a complex set of issues interconnecting the Town Center and efforts to revise its traffic concurrency policies.
At stake is whether the Town Center proceeds per the 2009 plan adopted by the Planning Commission and City Council or, as some desire, the plan is reopened with the goal of down-sizing it.
Reopening the plan also allows the possibility of some advocating an up—zoning of the TC.
The city is under a building moratorium adopted last October. The council and staff want to lift the moratorium in July, but controversy over how to proceed with revisions for concurrency casts doubt over whether revisions may be ready by then.